The Problem of Bureaucratic Rationality: Tax Politics in Japan

The Problem of Bureaucratic Rationality: Tax Politics in Japan

by Junko Kato


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Through a detailed account of the political battles over Japanese tax reform during the last two decades, Junko Kato draws an unconventional portrait of bureaucratic motivation, showing how fiscal bureaucrats exploit their unique technical knowledge to influence policymaking. Rejecting the notion that the monopolization of policy expertise leads to bureaucratic domination, Kato contends that bureaucrats seek to increase their influence upon politicians by strategically sharing information. She also explores the reason for the relative strength of the bureaucratic organization in comparison to the governing party, whose interest in reelections and intra-party politics may pose dilemmas for individual politicians.

In 1989, the Japanese Diet enacted a broad-based consumption tax after two failed attempts and in the face of widespread public disapproval. Its passage was all the more remarkable for coming just as a series of dramatic financial scandals had begun to undermine popular support for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, fore-shadowing its fall from power four years later. Kato argues that skillful maneuvering by the Ministry of Finance, determined to ensure stable long-term revenues, was decisive in persuading a majority of legislators to oppose their constituents in endorsing an unpopular program of tax reform. Her careful analysis of the Japanese case holds important implications for the study of bureaucratic power and public policy in advanced industrial democracies elsewhere in East Asia and the West.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691034515
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/20/1994
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 7.75(w) x 10.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Junko Kato is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Tokyo.

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Note on Conventions
List of Abbreviations
Ch. 1Bureaucratic Rationality and Strategic Behavior: The Framework17
Ch. 2Bureaucratic Rationality and Strategic Behavior: Japanese Tax Reform44
Ch. 3Lessons for Bureaucrats: From the Proposal for a Tax Increase in the Late 1970s to Fiscal Reconstruction without a Tax Increase in the Early 1980s110
Ch. 4Reframing the Tax Issue: The Ministry of Finance's Fiscal and Tax Policies in the Early 1980s140
Ch. 5The Tax Reform Proposal in the mid-1980s: Uneasy Cooperation between Prime Minister Nakasone and the Ministry of Finance156
Ch. 6The Third Attempt: introduction of the Consumption Tax and the Securities Trading Scandal191
Ch. 7Conclusion: Bureaucracy, Party, and the Power of Rationality221

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